By Jeff Clark & Sandy Duffy
Consumers for Dental Choice NW
(download printable PDF version of this article)
Dentistry has perpetrated an uncontrolled multi-generational mercury experiment on the American people. Mercury-amalgam dental fillings have never been subjected to the kind of regulatory scrutiny and approval process demanded of all modern drugs and medical devices to prove safety. Only in the last few years have controlled experiments with animals been conducted by non-dentists in an attempt to estimate what we humans have already been experiencing over the past 150+ years of mercury-amalgam.
The American Dental Association's (ADA) origin derives from the controversy of using mercury for tooth fillings. Before mercury-amalgam became the standard of dental practice only the rich could afford gold fillings -- the rest of us went to the barber for tooth extraction. Mercury-amalgam enabled dentists to place many more much lower costing tooth fillings per day. This efficiency produced an ever-widening number of people who could afford professional dental services.
The division that killed the original dental association and formed today's ADA was between those who were concerned for the public's health from the poisonous mercury release, and those who had dollar signs in their eyes . Money won.
Until this day dentistry has used marketing, political influence, and control of regulatory boards at all levels to impose its self-serving economic view that mercury-amalgam is completely safe. The science that proves safety is still not forthcoming from the ADA, nor from dental schools, nor from mercury-amalgam manufacturers.
Marketing has long been dentistry's first line of defense for its use of mercury. The true nature of mercury-amalgam has been disguised with the soothing label "silver filling". Efforts to gain the public's trust and confidence have imposed high psychological barriers. For many people conditioned to trusting, it is too unbelievable, too egregious to even consider the possibility that their dentist has been poisoning them with mercury.
Science has not been the driving force behind the ADA's public information on mercury release. When asked about the safety of mercury amalgam the response one always heard previously, and can still hear today in many dental offices is: "once set, the mercury becomes completely stable and locked up, it doesn't leak out". After it was unequivocally demonstrated that mercury vapor continuously escapes from mercury-amalgam fillings the ADA repositioned itself and now claims: "the small amount of mercury released from amalgam restorations, especially during placement and removal, has not been shown to cause any adverse health effects." 
This last position statement made in 1997 is the one we are living under today, adopted by the dentists at the ADA, FDI World Dental Federation, and the World Health Organization in a consensus agreement.
This position is at odds with what scientists independent of the dental industry have been learning by studying amalgam mercury exposure and uptake in humans and animals.
Mercury escapes from amalgam and is taken up by the human as metallic vapor, metallic vapor and ionic mercury dissolved in saliva, and as unknown mercury species directly through the tooth pulp and root into the bloodstream. Ionic mercury in saliva is converted to methylmercury.
The more competent human studies on exposure have looked at the amount of mercury vapor in an individual's mouth, mercury in their saliva, mercury in their urine and feces, and compared that to individuals who have never had any mercury-amalgam fillings. There is an extreme range of dental mercury exposure and uptake from person to person. The high end of the range reaches 100 micrograms of mercury uptake per day in a single individual. That any individuals can be found with such high daily mercury exposure and uptake from their mercury-amalgam dental fillings is cause for alarm.   
Animal experiments with amalgam produce further cause for alarm. There are genetically determined susceptibilities to mercury-caused systemic illness. Some animal strains are highly sensitive with quite noticeable trace mineral disturbances and immune system activation after mercury-amalgams are placed into their teeth. Other strains are highly resistant with only small pathological changes observed in response to mercury-amalgam.
In genetically susceptible animals
mercury concentrations in the same range as received from mercury-amalgams
have been found to cause autoimmune disease, inhibiting and disturbing
immune system functions.    
Dental mercury exposure in the genetically diverse and free living human population has been an uncontrolled experiment. This makes it presently difficult to prove in the absolute scientific sense that dental amalgam directly causes human health conditions beyond contact allergy and oral lichen planus.  
This situation will change over time as genetic markers are identified for predisposition to autoimmune diseases such as MS , ALS , Lupus , and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimers  -- allowing meaningful mercury -amalgam case-control studies to be conducted within these susceptible sub-populations of humans.
New diagnostic tests characterizing human immune cells are already showing a strong correlation between immune activation against dental mercury and chronic fatigue syndromes.
Young athletes that die suddenly from Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy have been shown to have 22,000 times as much mercury in their heart tissues as do patients with other cardiac conditions. 
Meanwhile there is an ever growing number of case reports of people receiving spontaneous remissions from a wide range of idiopathic maladies -- primarily by having mercury-amalgam dental fillings safely removed from their teeth. These experiences have led to the formation of patients' groups such as "Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome" (DAMS). 
These case reports and the current scientific evidence cry out that there is a grievous problem with mercury-amalgam dental fillings. The Hippocratic Oath commits all dentists to the conservative approach of "first do no harm". Mercury-amalgam dentistry has systematically not been living up to this pledge. The ADA cannot now reverse its position on safety without admitting fault and incurring enormous financial liability for itself and its members. Dentistry's self-serving negligence and dishonesty with mercury-amalgam "silver" fillings has put us and our children at risk.
The United States needs to pass
laws to ban mercury dental fillings as soon as possible. Until
that legislation is signed, the public must have the right to
know about the mercury before it is placed into their teeth,
to choose non-mercury fillings, and to pay the same out of pocket
fee for non-mercury fillings as they would for a mercury-amalgam.
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